Friday, September 04, 2009

Don't Miss 'Here Comes Mr. Jordan'

Turner Classic Movies seems to be showing several noteworthy films this month, and I want to try to give you as much advance notice as I can when some of the standouts are coming up, starting with a movie that is scheduled for Wednesday night — "Here Comes Mr. Jordan."

Have you ever seen "Heaven Can Wait," the 1978 film starring Warren Beatty? Well, it was a remake of 1941's "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," with a few adjustments.

In the original, the main character, Joe Pendleton, was a boxer. In the remake, he was a quarterback.

In the original, his sidekick, Max Corkle, was his manager. In the remake, he was his coach.

In the original, the plane that Joe was piloting crashed. In the remake, Joe rode his bicycle into a tunnel and collided with a vehicle. In both films, the "escort" angel took the soul from the body too soon.

In both films, the main character played a musical instrument to relax — but was really terrible at it. It turned out that was a key point in convincing the Corkle character of Joe's true identity in both films. But the instrument was different in each movie. In "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," Joe played a saxophone. In "Heaven Can Wait," he played a clarinet.

But the essential story line was unchanged — Joe had been removed from his body prematurely and had been deprived of his destiny. The escort angel tried to correct the mistake but learned that the body had been cremated so a substitute body had to be found. At that point, the supervising angel (Mr. Jordan) stepped in to take charge.

Joe enlisted Max's help once the supervising angel (Claude Rains in the original, James Mason in the remake) found him a body and he tried to get back on the path of his own destiny.

Robert Montgomery played Joe in the original. He may be best known by more modern audiences as the father of Elizabeth Montgomery, but he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in "Here Comes Mr. Jordan." So was Beatty nearly 40 years later.

If you have seen "Heaven Can Wait" but haven't seen "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," I urge you to watch it. It's part of a salute to Claude Rains and, in my opinion, it is the best film TCM has scheduled for that evening. It starts at 7 p.m. (Central), and it runs for 94 minutes.